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Phuket Opinion: Cashing in on the ‘Smart City’

PHUKET: It’s been a long time coming, and on Monday (Mar 11) we heard it again: The government is gearing up to achieve its target of 30 smart cities in 24 provinces, including Phuket, by next year and hopes to transform 100 cities nationwide to smart cities by 2022.

By The Phuket News

Sunday 17 March 2019, 09:00AM

Phuket Governor Phakaphong Tavipatana (right) stands on stage at the DEPA’s Smart City Thailand Takeoff event in Bangkok earlier this month. Photo: DEPA

Phuket Governor Phakaphong Tavipatana (right) stands on stage at the DEPA’s Smart City Thailand Takeoff event in Bangkok earlier this month. Photo: DEPA

That’s no joke, after more than 10 years of banter and talk of big budgets to bring our island to the forefront of technology, or say the pundits claim.

The city data platform for smart city implementation is set to launch this year, facilitating the transformation, while at least 100 e-services are expected to be provided to the public by 2022, a press event event in Bangkok led by Deputy Prime Minister Air Chief Marshal Prajin Juntong, who is also currently the chairman of the government’s National Smart City Committee.

The overarching aim of a smart city is to enhance the quality of living for its citizens through smart technology. At the event a smart city was defined as an urban area that uses different types of electronic data collection sensors to supply information which is used to manage assets and resources efficiently.

Apparently this includes data collected from citizens, devices and assets that is processed and analysed to monitor and manage traffic and transportation systems, power plants, water supply networks, waste management, law enforcement, information systems, schools, libraries, hospitals and other community services.

In all honesty, Phuket would be dragged into 21st century if anything like Smart City use of technology was applied to even just one of those aspects. Managing traffic? That would help, but the roads are clogged anyway. Transportation systems? That would be nice, if Phuket actually had one. Power plants? Sorry, we struggling to keep pace with maintaining our power lines and we don’t generate any power anyway. Waste management? Household waste is still not separated at collection and key tourist beach areas are only just getting their very first wastewater-treatment plants installed.

As for water supply, well if we need top-end tech to count buckets for us, heaven help us – and sadly that is right where we are with that. Our officials are struggling to let us know when reservoirs are running dry.

As of June ACM Prajin said that B140 billion was to be spent on the “initial” Smart City rollout, yet much money has already been handed out through official budgets, first under the Software Software Industry Promotion Agency (SIPA), which has now evolved into the Digital Economy Promotion Agency (DEPA), created in Jan 2017.

Laguna Golf Phuket

In 2016, the Phuket Governor at the time, Chamroen Tipayapongtada, signed a “letter of intent” with the Mayor of Busan, South Korea, to develop knowledge and technology sharing.

At the same time, Information and Communication Technology Minister Uttama Savanayana announced that B430 million from the 2016 fiscal budget had been earmarked to pursue its plan to develop Phuket as the first smart city in Thailand. (See story here.)

For that price we got a four-story building at Saphan Hin, entrepreneurship training courses for wannabe “tech startups”, a promise of some course to train youngsters in some form of technology, and 200 CCTV cameras – probably the most effective technology officialdom has used on this island.

CCTV has helped catch many criminals, but there have been so many CCTV projects announced with funds drawn from so many different budgets it has been impossible to tell who paid for which cameras, and at what cost to the taxpayer.

It is even impossible to exactly say how many cameras – belonging to who – are in operation across the island right now. That’s how good our Smart City programme has been so far.

But there has been one thing the Smart City porject so far  has excelled at, and that is getting big number budgets thrown around as if the money fell from the sky. To that, to ask exactly who has benefited from the Smart City initiative so far, we’ll let you decide.



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Fascinated | 17 March 2019 - 20:50:22

Oh goody- does this mean another  'hub' for Phuket?

Kurt | 17 March 2019 - 19:41:09

As always , a great well thought through opinion!

May I ask here how Thai scholars and students did celebrate the world " MyFreedomDay"?As done all over the world, with many, many tv press shows.  But I did miss Thailand, why?  Is Freedom in Thailand under pressure? Anything manifest or thai tv shows from thai schools and universities I did miss?

Galong | 17 March 2019 - 13:53:03

"Manage traffic"  Good one! So, there are actual cops right now who stand around a watch people break traffic laws. How exactly will this get 'smarter'?  

Shwe | 17 March 2019 - 11:25:53

How much of that budget is actually spent and how much just disappears into various pockets. BMW & Mercedes dealers will do well

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